Is Big Brother Really Watching?

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The expression “Big Brother is watching” has become so commonplace that we forget the shock it caused when George Orwell published 84.

It is therefore not surprising that documents show that the CIA spy on Americans without warrants.

After declassified documents were made public, two senators now want “new transparency regarding bulk surveillance conducted by Central Intelligence Agency”.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich sought declassification from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board of a report about a bulk collection program the CIA conducted under executive order 12333 and not as a result of legislation.

Interestingly, Executive Order 12333 was issued by the Reagan administration. It states that all legal and reasonable means must be used to ensure the United States receives the best intelligence possible.

Wyden and Heinrich did however note in their request for declassification that the CIA surveillance was “entirely beyond the statutory framework that Congress believes governs this collection and without any of judicial, congressional, or executive branch oversight that comes with [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] collection.”

Wyden and Heinrich asked for information, which was declassified by the CIA.

All intelligence activities of the CIA must be authorized. The collection, retention, and dissemination of information concerning U.S. persons can only be done according to approved procedures by the Director and Attorney General. Although many of the CIA’s intelligence activities must remain secret for national security reasons, the CIA has made public its procedures to protect Americans’ personal data and provided a detailed explanation of the limitations and authorizations.

Wyden and Heinrich responded to the report by pointing out that the documents show that Americans are concerned about privacy and civil liberties. They are also concerned about how the CIA collects, handles, and uses information outside of FISA law and executive orders. These documents highlight serious problems in warrantless backdoor searches of Americans. This is the same issue that has prompted bipartisan concern in relation to FISA.

Wyden and Heinrichs have called for greater transparency from the CIA as a result of the information they found in the report. Although it hurts me to agree with two Democrat senators, and the ACLU on this point, I believe they are correct in saying that “This invasion must stop.”